2/26/2014 5:59 P.M. ET
Heyward, B.J. Upton atop lineup for spring opener
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Before being asked, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was prepared to answer whether the construction of his lineup for Wednesday's Grapefruit League opener against the Tigers was similar to the one he plans to use during the regular season.
"It's just a matter of getting these guys at-bats, other than a couple of guys," Gonzalez said. "I like Jason [Heyward] hitting first and [Freddie] Freeman hitting third, so he can hit in the first inning. You don't even worry about the rest. That will take care of itself like it always does."
As Gonzalez has projected over the past few months, Heyward batted leadoff and Evan Gattis was positioned behind Freeman in the cleanup spot for Wednesday's game. The most intriguing aspect of the lineup's construction was the fact that B.J. Upton batted second.
Positioning Upton near the top of the lineup during the regular season would obviously increase his potential number of plate appearances. But Gonzalez's reasoning does not necessarily apply during the early portion of the Grapefruit League season, when position players often exit after recording a prescribed number of plate appearances, regardless of the inning.
Thus, it seems Gonzalez is at least thinking about the possibility about putting Upton near the top of of the lineup this season. It won't work if the veteran center fielder struggles like he did last year, when he hit .184 and struck out once every 2.9 plate appearances.
But if Upton's offseason adjustments prove fruitful and he regains the ability to utilize his speed near the top of the lineup, it might make sense to have him bat second. This would give Justin Upton a chance to regularly bat fifth and move to the cleanup spot on those days when Gattis is not playing.
"People make a big deal about the lineup," Gonzalez said. "If you hit, you'll hit higher. If you don't, you'll hit a little lower. That's as simple as it is."
Justin Upton scratched with soreness in side
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Justin Upton was scratched from Wednesday's starting lineup when he told Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez that his right side has been sore the past couple of days.
"When they come in on the first day and you ask them and they give you, 'Well, you know,' that's good enough," Gonzalez said. "He's not going to make the trip tomorrow, and we'll still be in February."
Along with missing Wednesday's Grapefruit League opener, Upton will also not play in Thursday afternoon's game against the Tigers in Lakeland. The Braves' left fielder said there is a chance he will be ready to begin playing by Friday.
"It's early, and I'm going to get plenty of at-bats," Upton said. "So there is no reason to push it. We'll see what tomorrow brings and the next day. If I feel better, I am in there."
Upton, who began feeling the soreness earlier this week, gave Gonzalez further reason for comfort when he emerged from the clubhouse to go to the indoor batting cage on Wednesday morning.
"It's not that major, because if it was, he wouldn't be able to swing," Gonzalez said. "It's no big deal."
Upton had been slated to bat fifth and play left field against Detroit on Wednesday. When he was scratched, designated hitter Ryan Doumit was moved up to the lineup's fifth spot and Jordan Schafer was inserted as the left fielder.
Off to good spring start, Uggla encouraged
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Dan Uggla has been around long enough to realize there is not any reason to get excited about results produced during the early portion of Spring Training.
But given where he was last year, the Braves' second baseman at least had reason to be encouraged after recording a single in both of the plate appearances he notched in Wednesday afternoon's 6-5 rain-shortened Grapefruit League-opening loss to the Tigers.
"I can't argue with some knocks," Uggla said. "It was a good day."
Uggla drove in the game's first run with a second-inning single that he lined to shallow left-center field against Drew Smyly. While facing left-hander Phil Coke two innings later, he was credited with a single after hitting a sharp liner that short-hopped third baseman Nick Castellanos.
Since arriving at Spring Training a week before position players were required to report, Uggla has expressed confidence in his ability to bounce back from last year's miserable season, during which he hit .179 with 22 home runs and a career-low .671 OPS.
"I feel like me again," Uggla said. "This is a hard game, and I'm going to have to keep working. This is just Day 1. I've got a long ways to go. But it's encouraging to be going the way I'm going and feel the way that I feel."
• Playing in a game for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery in June, Ramiro Pena doubled in the only plate appearance he recorded during Wednesday's game. Pena is expected to start at shortstop during Thursday's game against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla.
• The Braves observed a moment of silence before Wednesday's game to honor Jim Fregosi, who died after suffering multiple strokes earlier this month. Fregosi spent the past 13 seasons as a special assistant to Atlanta's general manager.
• Representatives from Rawlings presented Andrelton Simmons with his Gold Glove Award and Platinum Gold Glove Award (for the National League's top defensive player) before Wednesday's game.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.